Grindr acknowledged that information on users' HIV status, including the date they were last tested for the virus, was provided to two companies, Apptimize and Localytics, that were paid to monitor and analyze how the app was being used.
The announcement, first reported by Axios, comes after a BuzzFeed News report published earlier that day described how the app includes sensitive health information along with a person's Global Positioning System data, phone ID and email, and sends it to Apptimize and Localytics, both companies that optimize apps.
Gay dating app Grindr has come under fire after admitting it shared sensitive data about HIV status with third parties. "That's the main issue", Antoine Pultier, a researcher at SINTEF, told BuzzFeed.
Disclosing HIV status is optional for Grindr users, and is visible to other users when filled out, but many users may choose to use the app anonymously.
The company chose to stop sharing the information with Localytics "based on the reaction - a misunderstanding of technology - to allay people's fears", chief security officer Bryce Case told BuzzFeed News.
Grindr chief technology officer Scott Chen said in a Tumblr post that sharing data with partners such as Apptimize and Localytics was "industry practice" and that steps were taken to protect people's privacy. "We assure everyone that we are always examining our processes around privacy, security and data sharing with third parties, and always looking for additional measures that go above and beyond industry best practices to help maintain our users' right to privacy". "We pay these software vendors to utilize their services".
Case said there shouldn't be any comparison between Grindr and Cambridge Analytica, a British data firm that worked for President Trump's campaign and is now under criticism over reports that it improperly accessed the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users. Of course, it also seems unlikely that many of those who installed the app on their phones and tapped quickly through its installation screens ever bothered to parse the fine print in the first place.
You may also have the option to provide information concerning health characteristics, such as your HIV status or Last Tested Date.
A Norwegian campaign group, Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research, said that HIV status information was linked to information shared with the two outside firms.
Security researcher Cooper Quintin told BuzzFeed News that any data sharing with third parties makes that data more vulnerable to exposure.
Users of the app are given the option to share their HIV status, as well as when they were last tested, and this information is readily available to others. This is highly sensitive information that some people may not want to share with others, especially without knowledge of who exactly it is being shared with.
"It is up to each customer to determine what information they send to Localytics, and Localytics processes that data exclusively for the customer's use".